Soho Says Trash Plan Stinks

Soho Says Trash Plan Stinks

The proposed facility as seen from West Street. The louvered curtain wall system would track sunlight and adjust accordingly to conserve energy.
Courtesy Weisz + Yoes

As New Yorkers colonize the last of the city’s former industrial areas, they’ve found themselves on the front lines of battle against their neighborhoods’ unsavory remnant uses—wastewater treatment plants, marine transfer stations, salt sheds, and sanitation depots.

Now that battle has erupted in Hudson Square, a district west of Soho that until a few years ago did not even have a name. With such luxury brands as the Urban Glass House and the soon-to-be-completed Trump Soho rising in its midst, the community has come out in sharp opposition to a Department of Sanitation plan to site a new garbage truck garage and salt station atop an existing UPS facility at the corner of Spring and West streets.

At a hearing before the City Planning Commission yesterday, local residents, business owners, and public officials voiced their concerns about noise, traffic congestion, and pollution, claiming the area is already plagued by all three. That is thanks largely to the nearby Holland Tunnel, which has been deemed one of the worst asthma zones in the city. “The dangers of such a location should be self-evident,” Katharine Wolpe, president of the Village Independent Democrats, told the commission.

The Sanitation Department has little choice about moving. When the Hudson River Park Act became law a decade ago, the city agreed to relocate its sanitation garage on Pier 52 at the end of Gansevoort Street to make way for additional parkland. After much deliberation and an eventual lawsuit, the city now pays $1.8 million per year to lease the site, and if it does not vacate by 2012, it must pay an additional $1 million per year.

To make the $400 million, 347,000-square-foot facility more palatable, the department and its architects, Dattner Architects and Weisz + Yoes, are pursuing a number of sustainable features with the goal of achieving LEED certification.

The most obvious component is the operative louvered curtain wall, the signature element of the building envelope being designed by Weisz + Yoes. One of the largest of its kind in the country, the system will track sunlight and adjust louvers throughout the day to regulate heat exposure, thereby cutting energy costs. The form of the curtain wall, which would extend down to the UPS portion of the building, is also meant to telegraph the structure’s interior.

Dattner was in charge of the massive green roof for the structure, possibly the largest in the city at nearly the size of a football field. (The building’s large footprint, coupled with a requested variance to forego the required 85-foot setback in favor of a sheer 120-foot street wall, has greatly angered the community.) The garage will also draw on Con Edison’s steam network for heating and cooling, further reducing energy consumption.

Still, the community is not entirely satisfied. On July 19, when Community Board 2 conditionally disapproved the proposal by a unanimous vote of 40-0, they demanded LEED Gold standards, including public access to the green roof and a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions, asthma being one of the greatest concerns. “My eldest son Paul and my wife have asthma,” John McPeake, a resident of 330 Spring Street, told the commission. “Essentially, I will be forced to leave if this garage is built.” (The specific LEED rating goal has yet to be determined.)

Beyond the facility’s design, many residents feel the plan would burden the area with more than its share of waste operations. The Gansevoort Station currently serves Sanitation Districts 2 and 5, but the new station would combine those two garages with District 1—a solution critics say brings too much traffic into the area. Were the District 5 garage relocated elsewhere, the station’s bulky profile could also be reduced to 95 feet, closer to the neighborhood scale and required setback.

Christine Quinn, the local representative on the City Council as well as the speaker, has yet to take a position on the matter, leaving the facility’s fate an open question.

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